Mercer Clinic Preps for Holiday Gifts to Pets of Homeless People

Pet owner and gift bag at Mercer Clinic
This will be the Mercer Veterinary Clinic’s 29th year distributing gifts to pets of people experiencing homelessness. (Courtesy)

The long-running Mercer Veterinary Clinic in Sacramento is helping bring holiday joy to pets of people who are homeless, and you can help.

Each month, UC Davis veterinary students supervised by volunteer veterinarians, both from UC Davis and elsewhere, hold a free clinic on the Loaves and Fishes campus in Sacramento. The Mercer Veterinary Clinic provides free exams, vaccinations, parasite medications and referrals for pets of people experiencing homelessness.

Undergraduate students volunteer at the clinic to distribute free coats and sweaters for pets year-round, and on Dec. 9 they’ll also distribute the clinic’s annual holiday pet baskets filled with toys and treats. The clinic is currently seeking donations for the holiday pet basket program, as well as general expenses of the clinic and its satellite program in Davis. See the box below for information on how to donate.

Eileen Samitz and her co-workers at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital started the pet gift basket program nearly three decades ago. She said pets play a vital role for people who are homeless.

“Often, their pets are their only family, and often help to keep them from falling into depression and substance abuse,” Samitz said.

What started as about 15 holiday gift baskets grew over the years to 130 due to an increase in need. Samitz, a former clinical microbiologist who retired in 2015, continues to coordinate the program with other volunteers.

That distribution comprises 100 gift baskets for dogs and 30 for cats each December — now in recyclable, reusable bags instead of baskets. And the giving extends to more than 500 pet sweaters and coats throughout the year.

Samitz said the sweaters and coats can be important even during the summer months for small, short-haired or elderly pets, who are often not permitted inside homeless shelters and can get cold outdoors at night.

The Mercer Clinic’s faculty advisor is Laurel Gershwin, a professor emeritus of veterinary medicine.  The clinic’s monthly satellite clinic, Davis Pet Advocacy and Wellness, is held at the city’s Daytime Homeless Respite Center on L Street. That clinic is coordinated by Janet Foley, a professor and agronomist with the School of Veterinary Medicine.


Donate to the holiday pet basket and pet coat/sweater programs:

  • Online
  • By mailing a check: Mercer Holiday Pet Baskets, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, P.O. Box 1167, Davis, CA 95617-1167

Donate to the Mercer Clinic for general expenses:

  • Via PayPal
  • By mailing a check: Mercer Veterinary Clinic, P.O. Box, 297, Davis CA, 95617
  • Through Nugget Markets’ scrip card program — shoppers can designate the Mercer Clinic to receive donations from the chain with each purchase

Donate to Davis Pet Advocacy and Wellness:

Media Resources

Cody Kitaura is the editor of Dateline UC Davis and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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